Since we moved, I have started to walk to work a different way. (Why, yes I do walk to work. Thank you for being impressed. I’m averaging about 8000 steps a day to and from work since you ask and yes I am quite pleased with myself. Thank you).
I walk down quite an “interesting” street and, if someone was glassed outside Boomerngs last week I don’t let it bother me because I am well away from there by 5.30 pm. In the morning, I walk alongside a stream of secondary school pupils, on their way to an establishment that is never going to give Westminster Prep a run for its money in the results department. The girls are noisy with those wobbly hair buns on top of their heads and beautifully applied make up. They are carrying school bags which are just big enough to hold their phones and their fags (FOW 2s observation) but they seem happy and boisterous and you don’t really fear for their futures.
Occasionally though, you see a child and they are a little bit different. Their clothes aren’t good – especially the shoes and they don’t look that clean. Their parent/carer doesn’t look great either – usually pushing a trolley which has seen better days. These days, poverty can be easier to cover sometimes. With the advent of fast, cheap fashion – people can sometimes be turned out better than they would have been able to be in the past, without handouts and the like. I myself have known what it’s like to go to Dorothy Perkins with clothing vouchers – I know a little bit of how that feels. (On a side note – fast fashion is complicated. I know that sometimes it is made in terrible circumstances but you may find that the poor in this country appreciate the availability of clothes that ordinary people wear that stops them standing out as deprived. Like I said. Complicated). When you see these children, it gives you pause, You wonder about their home life, their friendships, their future.
Lowborn by Kerry Ann Hudson is a book about that kind of a life. As a child of an absent father and an alcoholic mother, her early life was marked by a succession of homes, various “dads”, school uniforms from charity shops that made people laugh at her and the need to grow up much sooner than a child should. More often than not she was her Mum’s rescuer rather than her child. In her teenage years she “went astray” drinking and sleeping around. There was a brief time at an evangelical church but she doesn’t seem to have made any contact with God. It was just a place to meet young people like her. It is so well written – brilliantly evoking her life and times. The book jumps back to her childhood and then forward and she visits the towns of her youth and tries to deal with the feelings these visits stir up.
Hudson is still trying to come to terms with her past. She is a successful novelist but still feels affected by the things that happened. Her young life was one lived at the outer margins. I think that many of those who live in poverty may not have the back story that she had but it is still shocking. At the end of the book she leaves us with figures that are meant to stir us up
“we live in the world’s sixth-richest economy but one-fifth of us live in poverty”
Sometimes this is a really difficult read and it makes no apologies for that. She is, however, a walking talking beacon of hope that people can recover, albeit with scars. Recommended.